Abstract

In the Golden Triangle region of southeast Asia (northern Thailand, Laos and Burma, southern Yunnan), the Mekong, Salween, and neighboring rivers show hairpin geometries where they cross active strike-slip faults. Restoration of young, left-lateral offsets of these rivers leaves residual right-lateral bends of many kilometers. We interpret these hairpins as evidence of late Cenozoic slip-sense inversion on these faults, about 5 to 20 Ma. Near the Red River fault, stress field and slip-sense inversion occurred ca. 5 Ma. This implies that the present course of these large rivers has existed for at least several million years. Pliocene–Quaternary slip rates, possibly on the order of 1 mm/yr, are inferred on each of the strike-slip faults of the Golden Triangle.

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